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The Preferred Seat Hoax: How Airlines Are Charging More to Book the Same Seats

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Airline seats might not have changed, but airline fees for those seats are increasing. Peter Greenberg and the Wall Street Journal’s Scott McCartney break down the preferred seating trend: are some seats really better than others or are you now paying for a seat assignment?

Peter Greenberg: Some airline are now counting a middle seat as a preferred seat which I consider to be completely delusional. Scott McCartney, do you agree?

Scott McCartney: I don’t agree that a middle seat is the preferred seat. Airlines are now taking a large percentage of their seats, classifying them as preferred, and essentially pressuring people into paying for a seat assignment.

PG: I remember when Northwest airlines made all the seat for rows behind first class into preferred seats until even seat 8E! I’m sorry but that’s not a preferred seat!

SM: Airlines are not just saying being in front of the cabin is preferred. I see maps of planes where seat 24 D and E are roped off as preferred seats. You buy your ticket, but that doesn’t guarantee you a specific seat. It’s a real issue for families traveling together that would like to sit together; you can’t just show up at the gate and check in at the airport and roll the dice on what seats you’re going to get.

PG: In the past, many airlines would hold about 30 percent of their seats back for what they call “airport control” and the argument they gave that a lot of businessmen were overbooking. It actually has nothing to do with overbooking; it has to do with controlling who’s going to pay for those seats.